Saturday, June 28, 2014

Don Whoa! Redux

Continuing the parade of old favorites that are finally being accompanied by recipes, we have the unusual, yet delightful Don Whoa!, a shrub whose primary flavors are pineapple and habanero in which raw coconut vinegar becomes the major vinegar component.

Before I knew much about the different kinds of vinegar, I must admit that my initial assumption was that it would be a no-brainier to use coconut vinegar with pineapple. One look at that combination is enough to start a montage of piƱa coladas dancing through one's fevered imagination set to an obligatory Rupert Holmes soundtrack. If you go back and read my initial post on this shrub, I talk about the unexpected butterscotch notes that cropped up. While it wasn't what I envisioned, it was an exciting detour in flavor that people who have had this have really come to enjoy. 

But my guess is that you are really here for the recipe rather than a retread of the old post, so without further ado, here it is...

Well, almost. 

Taking a page from what we have learned about adjusting the heat level of you shrub when using chiles, one minor adjustment I would make when making this recipe would be to warm the raw coconut vinegar slightly and steep some halved habanero peppers in it until you have reached your desired heat level. After a few years of trial and error, it is really the best way to reach a consistent level of heat. 

Don Whoa!
12 oz raw coconut vinegar
4 oz white wine vinegar
16 oz pineapple, roughly chopped
12 oz Sugar In The Raw
1-3 habanero peppers, halved, seeded and membranes removed depending on desired heat level

Pyrex measuring cup
Large glass jar or non-reactive receptacle
Muddler, immersion blender, or Vita-Mix
Metal strainers
Funnel, preferably canning funnel
Tea strainer
Clean glass bottles

Cut peppers in half, optionally seeding and removing membranes to reduce heat level. Set aside.

Pour white wine vinegar into Pyrex measuring cup and microwave until hot but not boiling. Gently immerse hot peppers into hot vinegar and cover with lid, plate, cling wrap or other means of holding in heat. Agitate gently, and check every 15-20 minutes to see if desired spice level has been reached. Remove peppers and any seeds that may have become loosened during steeping process. Set steeped vinegar aside.

Remove top, bottom, and outer skin of pineapple, slicing into rough chunks, until there are 16 ounces of pineapple chunks. You may macerate the pineapple with 12 ounces of Sugar In The Raw by either placing pineapple and sugar in the jar you will be making shrub in and muddling or using immersion blender until a syrupy pulp forms, or alternatively blending pineapple and raw sugar in Vita-Mix and pouring blended results into the glass jar. In either case, put jar of pineapple/sugar mixture into refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 5.

Remove jar from refrigerator and add both coconut and chile infused white wine vinegar to pineapple/sugar mixture. Agitate vigorously and place back in refrigerator for 1 week.

At the end of one week, place two strainers over a large Pyrex measuring cup. Carefully pour contents from the jar into the strainer, occasionally pausing to press on solids to squeeze out excess liquid. Discard solids. 

To bottle, situate tea strainer in funnel, and gently pour shrub through tea strainer into clean bottle. Refrigerate. Shrub should keep bottled in refrigerator for at least six months and likely up to 1 year or more.

Depending on fruit, may yield 16-24 ounces of shrub.


Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll pop by later this week, as I will show you some other remarkable permutations of this tangy, tropical beverage.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bucks, Mules, and Friends With Frankie Teardrop

If I wrote a shrub FAQ, the question that would probably find itself at the top of the list would be "Now that I have made shrub, what the hell do I do with it?"

Well, my go to is to make a temperance style highball with an ounce or more of shrub with a nice club soda or tonic water, and if we're getting really wild, maybe a dash or two of bitters. 

That said, if one is in the mood for something a little more festive, one could take a page from our colonial ancestors, and take the party in a more bibulous direction. Since we just learned how to make a batch of Frankie Teardrop, we now luckily have a shrub that works in a great number of my favorite drinks from one particular offshoot of the highball family of cocktails: bucks and mules.

At first glance, the two appear nearly identical. Take a base spirit, add ginger beer or ginger ale, some citrus and that's pretty much it. Where most people make the distinction is in whether it is the sweeter, more mellow ginger ale, or the often spicier, drier ginger beer. There are some great drinks that follow this formula, and although our shrub is neither ginger ale nor ginger beer, I don't believe in turning down the opportunity to make a tasty beverage on a technicality.

Frankie Teardrop bears a great resemblance to some of my favorite ginger ales and beers, specifically Blenheim Ginger Ale, which comes in an Extra Spicy version with a red cap. In a buck or mule, these more muscular ginger drinks keep the drink from lapsing into a syrupy mess that ends up doing your base spirit a great disservice, and that is why I urge you to try your hand at adapting this ginger shrub into some of my favorite cocktails that would normally utilize a ginger soda.

To that end, it might be easiest to pre-make some "ginger beer" to add to your cocktail by combining the sparkling water to shrub by a ratio of 3 or 4:1, and then add it as you would normally add ginger beer. There is one exception, where I think it is easiest to just add the shrub to the drink and then add the soda, but I will point that out when we get there. 

For those who prefer white spirits, there is the much beloved classic, The Moscow Mule, a very simple combination of ginger beer, lime juice, and vodka. Traditionally served in copper novelty mugs, I suggest putting them into any clean receptacle that will get the drink into your face in a quick and efficient manner.

Moscow Mule:
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. lime juice
4 oz ginger beer

Fill copper mug or highball glass with ice, add lime juice and vodka.

Top with ginger beer, stir gently. Garnish with lime wedge.

If you tend to lean more toward brown spirits, the ubiquitous Whiskey Ginger is even simpler, and maintains the easy drinking nature of the Moscow Mule, nixing the citrus, but bumping up the flavor in the spirits department. While I personally like Irish Whiskey in these, feel free to use Jack Daniels or George Dickel and the like if those are your druthers.

Whiskey Ginger
1.5 oz whiskey(I'm a Bushmills man, myself)
3.5 oz ginger beer

Fill highball glass with ice. Top with ginger beer, stir gently. Garnish with lime wedge.

Where rum and ginger beer are concerned, the Dark n' Stormy is king. With all due respect to his majesty, I am going to instead share with you a rum and ginger beer cocktail that is nowhere near as well known as that Caribbean Classic, but in my opinion is an unsung hero of the highball world.

I first heard of this upgraded version of the drink via Murray Stenson, Top Gentleman of all Time and Barman Extraordinaire, which I believe came from spirits writer Paul Clarke a few years back. When you first see its spartan, ungarnished presentation it looks quite simple. Humble, even. But brother, it doesn't taste it.

Originally found in the early Twentieth cocktail tome, Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em, the Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle was a bit like a Dark n' Stormy with Cuban Rum, which while likely a fine drink in and of itself does little to stir the jaded palates of today's tipplers. Clarke, in a stroke of brilliance, steamlined the original long drink into a spicy, efficient rip-snorter.

By using a ginger beer concentrate with a deep aged rum in equal parts and the addition of warm Angostura bitters, the spice and vanilla barrel notes have been tied together and only lightly kissed with effervescence; whereas the original Guzzle is a Sunday driver, this model is built for speed, turbocharged and ready for trouble.

Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle
from Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em/Stanley Clisby Arthur(barely adapted from an adaptation by Paul Clarke)

1.5 oz ginger beer concentrate(for our purposes use straight ginger shrub)
1.5 oz aged rum(I personally dig Bacardi 8 in this)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz soda water

Combine concentrate, rum, and bitters in ice filled shaker. Shake briefly and vigorously.

Strain into chilled, empty rocks glass. No garnish.

As we churn deeper into the heart of summer, there is a definite call for this kind of bracing refreshment as the mercury climbs and mouths become thirsty for relief. While ginger beer is a good and standard way to beat said heat, if you've got a batch of Frankie Teardrop lying around, I urge you give it a whirl in these cocktails instead of the old standby, and as always, please let me know if you have some favorable results.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Frankie Teardrop vs. New Frankie Teardrop

I was going to write a highly nerdy, technical post about "processes" and "concepts," but then it occurred to me that people read about beverages primarily for fun. Therefore, I have abandoned the navel gazing in favor of a more casual and direct approach, though I do so enjoy a good navel gazin'...

For those of you who are new, you may not have seen the post about a ginger ghost chile shrub that I made called Frankie Teardrop. The idea behind this shrub was to basically concoct a ballsier ginger beer that would stand up to the likes of Blenheim in terms of heat and flavor. If you'd like to read the original post in all of its entertaining glory, please check it out.

One thing I did in my early posts was to selfishly withhold any proportions or detailed processes. In part this post is to help correct that and also explain why my further explorations with trying a different process fell a bit short from the delicious original.

In the past, I used to primarily work backwards from a 1:1:1 ratio of primary ingredient/vinegar/sugar. In most instances, that will certainly yield a pretty good shrub, though a little tweaking can really make the whole affair come into sharper relief. In the case of Frankie Teardrop, I was working from the original ratio when I discovered that unlike some of the previous attempts, this just wasn't working.

What I finally realized was that between vinegar that was steeped with ghost chiles, and a whole pound of grated ginger, the primary flavor component It was like letting an arsonist loose in your mouth, firebombing your tongue with gingery molotov cocktails. What was worse, however, is that the heat also manifested itself in a sort of odd bitterness. In constructing a balance between sugar, vinegar, and fruit, etc. I had always found sugar landing somewhere proportionally between vinegar and fruit. I started to feel a sense of desperation, and in a Hail Mary maneuver I weighed out another two ounces of Sugar in the Raw and threw it in, cautiously tasting a little bit on the end of a straw.

It worked, and though I was surprised, I was pleased. Not only did the extra sugar eradicate the underlying bitterness and offset the heat of the shrub, it also gave it a pleasant increase in viscosity and made it seem a bit more ginger beer like. This, as the parlance goes, is what I was talking about.

Unable to leave well enough alone, I began dabbling with alternative methods of making shrub last summer. One method was to steep the primary ingredient in vinegar first, incrementally adding sugar to taste. In theory, this has a couple of practical benefits.

First, one can tell exactly what point the shrub is sweet enough. Gone is the theoretical pondering about whether or not your careful postulating will hit the gustatory jackpot. If you add in small enough increments, the possibility of over sweetening is pretty low. Additionally, I found for some odd reason, the shrubs started seeming to be "sweet enough" at far lower concentrations of sugar than in the previous method. Using less sugar is probably good for both the well being of your health and your pocketbook, as I find that ingredients at retail prices can get pretty expensive when you make a lot of shrub.

I recently thought to apply this method to the previously unsullied Frankie Teardrop formula. As it turns out, it didn't seem half bad. Less sugar led to less viscosity which lent a lighter mouthfeel, which was not altogether unpleasant. The lack of sugar also meant that it was less prone to extreme sweetness when I used it to cook with(more on that soon) and in its reduced form, it was slightly less thick and glaze-like.

While those are positive aspects to be sure, in the end after some careful consideration, I don't know that it's the best version of the shrub.  

The problem with some shrubs using this new method is that while the lighter aspects make them quite nice to sample on their own, if you're like me and want to enjoy them in a glass of soda water or mixed against the brutish muscle of your favorite spirit, they will crumple into a flaccid heap like my abs during a sit-up contest. And by contest, I mean sitting up in the morning.

While the original recipe seems highly loaded for bear with the sugar and other ingredients, it's easy to forget that by concentrating the flavors so heavily, the person drinking the shrub has a reasonable amount of room for dilution before losing all of the really beautiful and powerful flavors that have been extracted. Most commercial shrubs recommend a 4:1 ratio of water to shrub syrup. If you dilute in that manner, not only are you able to have a flavorful cocktail or soda, but because you use less, it's also kind of a better value in the long run.

Though I prefer the original, I must say that I'm glad I went off book a little, as I would have always wondered if I could have done it better.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, if we hearken back to the New Coke fiasco of the '80's, we should all be so humbly reminded as I was, that in the end, nothing beats the real thing.

Frankie Teardrop(Original Recipe) *
18 oz Sugar in The Raw
16 oz fresh ginger root, grated or Vita-Mixed
16 oz Ghost Chile vinegar(see note)

Ghost Chile Vinegar
16 oz white wine vinegar(I use Regina)
1 tsp to 1 tbsp of Ghost Chile Flakes or 1 or 2 whole dried Ghost Chiles

Microwave safe glass bowl or container
T-Sac brand loose tea bags
Microplane, Sharkskin grater, or Vita-Mix
Spoon or muddler
Metal strainers
Sealable container
Tea Strainer
Funnel(canning funnels work best)
To make ghost chile vinegar: In a microwave safe glass container, heat 16 oz of white wine vinegar for 1-2 minutes. Remove vinegar from microwave and add either whole dried ghost chiles or scoop 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of ghost chile flakes into a T-Sac, tying a knot in the top and submerging into hot vinegar. Gently agitate T-Sac until vinegar begins taking on color.

Cover vinegar with foil or other covering to keep vinegar warm during steeping. Taste steeped vinegar every 15 to 20 minutes until desired heat level has been reached, usually reached between 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on amount of chiles used.

To assemble shrub: If grating ginger, wash and peel 16 ounces of fresh ginger root. Using microplane or sharkskin grater, grate ginger until it is a mass of soft pulp. If using Vita-Mix, wash ginger and place in blender container with about an ounce of water, blending until ginger is a mass of soft pulp.

Get a large sealable container, (large glass bale jars or restaurant quality food containers are best) and fill with ginger pulp. On a kitchen scale, weigh out 18 ounces of Sugar In The Raw or other turbinado sugar and pour over ginger mash in container. Using a large spoon or muddler, thoroughly mix sugar and ginger mash together. Close container and let stand in refrigerator for 3-4 hours. 

After resting, remove container and check contents. The sugar should have pulled more juice from the ginger, creating a sort of syrup in the container. Open the container and add 16 ounces of ghost chile vinegar. Close container and shake contents vigorously. Put in refrigerator for a week.

After one week, double strain liquid through metal strainers or other straining apparatus into large measuring cup with handle that is easy to pour from, pushing on ginger pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. Using funnel with tea strainer attached, strain again through tea strainer into clean glass bottles. Let bottles stand in refrigerator for one additional week, letting flavors marry. 

Kept refrigerated, this shrub can last at least one year, but often longer.


*I have found that if you like this shrub and you'll go through it quickly, you may want to consider scaling up the batch size. It's only a slight amount of work more to make a lot of shrub as it is to make a small yield. If you are, however, I really suggest you use a Vita-Mix as it will save you from the unpleasant spectre of carpal tunnel syndrome that you may get from grating more than a pound of ginger at a time. I would caution anyone using anything less powerful than a Blend-Tec of Vita-Mix, however, as the fiberous nature of the ginger may be too much for a normal blender and could harm your machine.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Redux and Recipes

The most commonly asked question in regard to the blog pre-departure was, "Why are there no recipes?"

Truthfully, I actually had a few up in the very early going, but as I began to think I could do this commercially, I decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to give away "trade secrets" as it were.

As I am no longer in the shrub business, my loss is your gain. My intent in getting back into this blog is to go back through and give the recipes to a bunch of the shrubs that people have been curious about in regard to ingredient ratios and such, and contrasting them with newer versions I have made.

I'm going to probably start tomorrow with one of the most popular flavors, Frankie Teardrop. It's one that I not only get asked about the most as far as the recipe goes, I just recently did an experiment in which I altered the recipe, which yielded some interesting results.

In any case, stay tuned over the next few days and weeks if you have ever wondered about exact amounts, and specific instructions of some of the earlier shrubs I put up.